Since the 2008 global economic crisis, the neoliberalization of nature and space, and consequently of environmental and planning policies, have exacerbated significantly. From infrastructure megaprojects, mining, fracking, waste disposal and land grabbing to shrinking access and loss of public green spaces, uneven gentrification and urban regeneration policies, public spaces, and natures within and beyond cities have been appropriated, privatized, commoditized, profoundly transformed and degraded with the aim to overcome recession and boost urban development. Despite the varying degree of success in pursuing urban growth, this has disproportionally affected people along lines of class, ethnicity, and gender, deepening environmental, social, and spatial inequality in many places across the globe. By drawing on my long-term research on biodiversity offsetting, the key argument I aim to advance in this essay is that since the 2008 financial crash, we have been witnessing the emergence of an increasingly symbiotic relationship between neoliberal conservation policies, infrastructure expansion and uneven urban development. This has been accompanied by the reframing of non-human nature as a movable amenity and has been intertwined with the new territorialities that the profound changes in global urban and economic geographies have brought about. This shift aims to legitimize and render common sense the idea that nature, either a protected area, a forest, an endangered species, or an urban green space, can be simply (re)located and (re)created where the interests of particular sections of capital dictate. Crucially, the underlying argument is not only that non-human nature should not be considered a barrier to infrastructure expansion and urban growth but perfectly compatible with it.
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